I live in Chicago and I travel for business primarily out of O’Hare Airport on either United or American Airlines. As an incorrigible road warrior, I have top-tier status on both of these airlines so I choose to fly one or the other because they generally take decent care of me – care that includes:

  • Minimal wait at security
  • Flying from point A to point B – safely and comfortably
  • Access to my preferred seating
  • First-Class service experience

Last Monday, I had to travel to Toronto and discovered that my assistant had me departing out of Midway Airport. On Porter Airlines. In coach. I had never even heard of Porter, so I checked them out online and was appalled when I saw that they fly Bombardier Aerospace Q400 Turboprop aircraft. The ones with propellers. I also discovered that Porter does not participate in the TSA program – I would have to go through regular security screening.

My assistant has worked with me now for over 19 years. She clearly knows my foibles when it comes to travel, so I decided to trust her decision to book me on Porter out of Midway. And I’m glad I did.

Once I arrived at Midway, I sailed through security and was at my gate five minutes later. The round trip ticket was all of $200 and for an extra $40 I was upgraded to a premier seat. This premier seat gave me a “first-class” experience even though it was one cabin of service. The plane took off on time and landed 5 minutes early at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Center airport. I deplaned, walked through an underwater tunnel, met my driver and was at my meeting in downtown Toronto in about fifteen minutes.

The return trip the next morning was equally as painless. Security was easy, plane was on time, I landed early at Midway and was in my office with time to spare before my next meeting. One of the most flawless travel experiences in a long time.

Traveling with Porter Airlines was much more than the actual flying experience. What makes them special is that they understand that the entire experience of traveling from point A to point B needs to be handled well. They fly out of convenient, smaller airports. Their non-members-only lounges offer free coffee, water, soda, juices, snacks (chips, yogurt, nuts). They understand that some flyers want a “premium” experience for a bit extra and they make getting this experience easy and cost-efficient. More importantly, they understand that although we expect airlines to get us from airport A to airport B, they try to make the overall journey comfortable, convenient and stress-free.

All brands should consider the overall experience that their customers go through as they move through their path to purchase. Unfortunately, most brands today are so focused on specific transactional periods that they think too narrowly. They lose the opportunity to deliver a genuine impact that happens when their customers are surprised and delighted at the brands’ thoughtfulness of the small things. And not just airlines like American and United, though they certainly could learn from this specific experience. I am talking about a majority of the brands across a majority of categories. Now, there are brands that do this well like Amazon, Lexus and Warby Parker. They take a holistic view and provide a complete and satisfying customer experience.

For now, I’m not planning on any more trips to Canada, but when I do travel there, I will absolutely be flying on Porter Airlines!

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